An old (and crotchety) family friend once told me that you only have to know three words in any one field to pass yourself off as an expert. Just “say it with authority” he instructed. So with that in mind here is a nice little list of helpful garden terms that will hopefully be informative, useful and if you want to pass yourself off as an expert you apparently only need to remember three.
Acidic soil – Any soil with a pH lower than 7.
Alkaline soil – Any soil with a pH higher than 7, often associated with hard water.
Annual – A plant that completes its life cycle in one year.
Bare-root – Dormant plants that are taken out of the ground, removed of their soil, and preserved until shipping and planting.
Biennial – A plant that completes its entire life cycle in two years, growing in the first year and reproducing and dying in the second.
To flower and produce seed prematurely. This is usually the result of excessive heat and sun exposure.
Bud union – Refers to the point at which the plant has been grafted on to a rootstock and is usually found at soil level. This is the result of a technique called ‘budding’ where the bud of one plant is grafted on to another plant.
Bulb – An underground storage organ with fleshy scale leaves from which the plant flowers and grows before becoming dormant.
Cane -The stems of a raspberry or blackberry plant. Raspberry plants are supplied as dormant canes.
Cloche – Structure made of glass, plastic or horticultural fleece placed over a plant for protection or for forcing early crops.
Cold frame – Unheated frame for growing on and acclimatizing hardy and half-hardy plants outdoors.
Companion planting – The belief that two plants growing near each other produce mutual benefits.
Compost – A mixture of decaying, organic materials (such as kitchen scraps) used for soil amending, fertilizing, and mulching.
Corm – A rounded underground storage organ, consisting of the stem base, and often with a fibrous outer layer. It is replaced by the plant annually.
Crown -The growing point of a plant from which new shoots emerge, at or just below the soil surface.
Cutting – A plant propagation method wherein a part of a plant is cut and dipped in a rooting hormone to eventually grow into a new plant.
A plant that is bred or selected by growers for unique flowers, leaf color, growing habit etc. It has distinct and uniform characteristics that differ from the original species.
Dead-head – To remove the spent blooms on a plant to encourage further flowering or to prevent self-seeding.
Deciduous – A plant that sheds its leaves each year.
Direct Sow -To sow seeds outdoors in their final positions, where you would like them to flower or crop.
Everblooming – A flower that produces a continual supply of blooms throughout a season.
Family – One group used in classifying organisms. Families consist of a number of similar genera (plural for genus).
Full sun – If a plant requires “full sun” then it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive.
Genus – A group of species of plants that are closely related.
Germinate – The beginning of growth in a seed; to sprout.
Grafting – Where one plant is artificially joined to the rootstock of another so they eventually function as one plant.
Hardy – A plant that can withstand frost exposure without means of protection.
Hardy annual – Annuals that do not need to be raised indoors but can be sown directly into their flowering positions in the garden in spring.
Hardiness zone – A geographically defined zone determined by temperature that categorizes which plants can thrive where; hardiness zones are designated by a number (1-11), such as zone 7. Gardening books and websites can help you determine your hardiness zone.
Herbicide – A substance that destroys plants or inhibits their growth.
Herbaceous plant – A non-woody perennial plant, often dying back in the winter and becoming dormant by means of underground rootstocks or a woody base. Growth resumes in the spring.
Heirloom – An open-pollinated plant variety that has remained unchanged through hybridization for at least 50-100 years.
Horticulture – The art and science of cultivating plants.
Humus – Decomposed plant matter that is part of the soil.
Hybrid – The crossbreeding of two plants of different species or varieties with distinct characteristics.
Loam – Rich soil consisting of 25 percent clay, 50 percent silt, and less than 50 percent sand; considered ideal soil for gardening and agriculture.
Maiden tree – A young tree, generally less than a year old, that can be trained into any form required.
Mulch – Layer of material placed on the soil and around plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve soil structure. Materials used for mulching include well-rotted manure, compost, polythylene sheets or gravel.
Naturalized – To plant randomly and without a pattern.
Open pollination – Plants whose seeds develop through random, natural pollination such as wind, field movement, or insect activity, not through human involvement.
Organic – A fertilizer, pesticide, or plant food that is of animal or vegetable origin; plants grown without the use of synthetic chemicals.
Organic matter – Substance of animal or plant origin – such as compost, leaf mould or manure. Useful for improving soil structure and supplying nutrients to plants.
Ornamental – Plants grown for aesthetics, not consumption or economic use.
Perennial – Plants that live for multiple growing seasons.
Pesticide – Any substance used to control or kill pests such as insects, weeds, animals, or microbes; may be organic or synthetic.
Pinching – Removing the growing points of a young plant to encourage side-shoots to form. This encourages a bushy habit and more flowering stems.
Pistil – The female sexual reproductive, seed-bearing organ of a flower, consisting of an ovary, style, and stigma.
Pollination – The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part of the flower) to the pistil (female part of the flower), which results in the formation of a seed.
Pruning – The process of cutting off leaves or branches within limits in order to remove dead, injured or diseased foliage or branches.
Propagate – To grow plants from seed or by vegetative means e.g. cuttings or grafting.
Rhizome – A horizontal fleshy stem which grows at or below ground level. Rhizomes produce roots and shoots.
Raised bed – An elevated garden bed offering better drainage, aeration and warmer soil than a conventional bed.
Rootstock – The underground part of a plant containing the roots. In grafting, a plant (scion) is joined to a desirable rootstock – often to promote a dwarfing habit.
Runner – A trailing stem growing above ground and rooting at the nodes, where plantlets are produced (e.g. strawberries). Some plants produce underground runners.
Specimen Plant – Normally a tree or shrub grown in a prominent position where it can be viewed from different angles.
Seedling – A plant that has just emerged from its seed with its first root, stem and leaves.
Self-pollinating – Plants that do not require pollen from another plant to produce fruit.
Side dressing – A method of fertilization in which one works a little fertilizer into the soil near a mature plant.
Staking – The practice of driving a support into the ground next to a plant to support it in its growth.
Stamen – The male reproductive organ of a flower, consisting of a filament and a pollen-containing anther.
Thin – To remove a number of buds, flowers, seedlings or shoots to improve the growth and quality of those remaining.
Transplant – To remove plants from one place and replant them in another (or from a container into the ground).
Trellis – Latticework used to support climbing plants
Vermiculite – A lightweight, flaky mineral called “mica” that has been heated to the point of expansion. The sponge-like granules are then capable of holding both water and air. This amendment is added to potting mixtures and container gardens to improve root growth due to aeration and moisture retention.
Waterlogged – Soil that is saturated with water.